From Obinna Odogwu, Awka
UNIZIK Business School (UBS) in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, on Friday, launched the Higher Education Partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa (HEP SSA) ’22/24 programme established and funded by Royal Academy of Engineering, United Kingdom.
The programme is an international collaboration project titled: ‘Catalysing the Employability and Entrepreneurial Impact of Nigerian Graduate Engineers in the Electricity Industry as a Strategic Way to Improve Access to Electricity in Nigeria.’
It is a £100,000 grant award aimed at improving engineering capacity in Sub-Saharan Africa by enhancing the knowledge, skills, capacity and employability of African engineering graduates.
It is also aimed at building on the research and innovation capacity of engineering students of higher education institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa and stimulating ties with industry to increase the scale of impact.
The project’s Team Lead, Dr Chinedu Onyeizugbe, said that the project was one of only six successful applications in the whole of Africa during the current grant cycle.
“The HEP SSA ’22/24 is an initiative of the RAE, UK which aims to ensure that the higher education system in Sub-Saharan Africa produces engineers with the skills and knowledge required to meet the needs of industry, tackle local challenges and address the engineering skills shortage in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“To achieve these ends, the Academy awards grants to universities in Sub-Saharan Africa for projects ranging from six months to two years in order to strengthen relationships between academia and industry”, he explained.
Onyeizugbe, who is also the Deputy Director of UBS, said that “The story of the Nigerian electricity industry is not dissimilar to that of many other sectors of the nation’s economy – bedevilled by inefficiencies and regulatory uncertainty, hampered by bureaucratic bottlenecks and moribund infrastructure, and plagued by a shortage of adequately skilled manpower that can push through and sustain direly needed reforms.”
He lamented that despite expenditures to the tune of multiple billions of dollars over the past few decades, the sector remains largely underperforming as the country’s current total electricity distribution still hovered around 4,000 – 5,000mw.
“Due to Nigeria’s grossly insufficient electric power generation and even more abysmal transmission and distribution statistics, it remains commonplace and in fact, is now accepted as conventional wisdom, for businesses of all kinds and sizes to have alternate power supply arrangements, usually in form of petrol or diesel-powered electricity generating sets, which they often have to put to use in order to keep their doors open and continue providing their goods and services.
Onyeizugbe commended the Vice-Chancellor of the university and Chairman of the Board of UBS, Prof. Charles Esimone; the Director of the business school, Prof. Emma Okoye, for their support.
He also commended his co-awardee, Ugochukwu Ifediora, for being “integral to the successful attraction of this grant from the very beginning.”
The UBS Director, Okoye, in his speech, explained that the programme was supported by the Anglo-American Group Foundation and the UK Government. He added that the pilot scheme of the programme had been successfully tested under the Enriching Engineering Education Programme (EEEP) in 2016.
The VC, Esimone, commended Onyeizugbe and Ifediora, for winning the grant, saying that he was confident that the programme would yield the desired results.